Finally, after many hours of work, the boat project is coming to an end. When I was in the Coast Guard we would put the boats through what was called “a yard period”. During this time all the issues that a boat had would be addressed in order to make the boat as reliable as possible. Sometimes the work was performed right at the Coast Guard Station by Coast Guard personnel; sometimes it would be done on a Coast Guard base like Governor’s Island by both Coast Guard and civilian base employees or contractors. At the end of the yard period, the boat would be like new, or as close as could be.
That is what I envisioned for our boat, aptly named “Keeper”. There were five items on my mind that I wanted to address. Although a couple more may have been thrown into the mix.
First up was the repair of the coring in the foredeck. After hauling the boat last October, she was trailered a few miles to Strong’s Yacht Center where a contractor removed the deck and the damaged coring. They put in a new and better coring material and re-installed the deck. Over the winter I had started to make a plate that would both protect the deck from the anchor and chain while adding some strength to the area around the windlass and cleat. That plate consists of a piece of black starboard under a piece of powder coated aluminum. I also added a substantial backing plate to the forward cleat. After re-installing the wiring for the windlass that was removed during the coring repair, I was able to complete the modifications I wanted. Once the coring was repaired the boat was trailered to Dickson’s Marine West in Bayshore for part two of the project.
Number two on my list was engine reliability and ease of maintenance. The engines were sea trialed with various gauges attached to check the engine performance against the manufacturer's specifications. Everything worked as it was supposed to during sea trials, and the boat was pulled and winterized. Work on the engines began in earnest in January of 2019. Engine components were removed and checked. Cylinder heads were removed and both heads had valve jobs done. Fuel injection pumps were sent to a shop for rebuilding and calibration. During that part of the project, we found that the after coolers on both engines would need replacement. Since they are no longer made I purchased two after coolers from a company in England and adapted them to my engines. This took up a considerable amount of time.
Next on the list were the engine mounted sea water pumps. As installed from the factory, these pumps are just terrible. The location is bad, the pumps themselves are poorly made and have been implicated in serious engine damage when they have failed. So before the engines went back in I wanted to design a system that was more user friendly and at least as good. We came up with a bracket mounted on the front of the engine, and using mostly off the shelf components produced a system that is easier to get to, is cheaper to maintain and will last longer before needing service. It is a belt driven pump, sourced from the iconic Caterpillar 3208 marine diesel engine. By spinning the pump at roughly seventy percent of engine speed and using a half thickness internal cam to actuate the impeller blades, this pump should last a very long time while supplying slightly more cooling water over any given rpm range.
With the engines out of the boat, it was the only time to take care of two more items on my list. Item four, thru-hull fittings! While all the fittings below the waterline are bronze in the boat, the side mounted thru-hull fittings for the deck drains and bilge pumps are plastic. They can be damaged by the sun or contact with a dock or other object. It would have been foolish to put the boat back in operation with twenty year old fittings. Having heard stories of coring damage due to cracked or poorly bedded fittings, I was a little concerned about what condition the hull would be in the areas around the fittings. It turns out that they were installed very well, and remained water tight until they were removed. New bronze fittings were used to replace those plastic fittings and we should be good for at least another twenty years.
Item five was the water heater. This is mounted on the outside of the port engine. If you can get to it to disconnect it from the water and electric supply, there is not enough room to remove it by either going around the engine to the front or back or by going over the top of the engine. I did have an interesting series of e-mails with another owner of the same boat on another boat forum. He did manage to get his water heater out of the engine room. But to do it he cut a hole through the top of the seating/storage on the port side, and then through the engine hatch that the seating is mounted on. Taking into account the man hours to cut out the seat and decking, and then fiberglass it all back together, I think it would be better to remove at least the port engine!
A few extra items made it onto the list also. I needed a new bilge pump in the engine room. I installed an “eyeball” camera to keep watch over the cockpit while we are underway, and we decided to replace the bolsters around the cockpit.
A couple of things did not make it onto the list also. We just ran out of time. There is an overhead panel in the cabin that has a little water damage along the edge that has to be removed to be repaired. I believe we will do that over the summer or next winter.
The windshield leaks a little water during heavy rains or when washing down. That can also be addressed over the summer while we are in the water. Frankly, we want to get the boat in and get out there on the water!